The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

August 5, 2013

Easement program to help Ohio recover from flooding


COLUMBUS — USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is providing up to $124.8 million in Emergency Watershed Protection Program-Floodplain Easement (EWPP-FPE) funding to help prevent damages from significant storm events in Ohio (Ashtabula and Cuyahoga Counties only) and other States affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Floodplains store water, helping to protect lands downstream from future flood damage. When the health and integrity of the lands deteriorate, so do the environmental, economic, and social benefits they provide.

“Restoring these ecosystems ensures our lands are resilient to future threats and impacts,” NRCS Acting State Conservationist Michelle A. Lohstroh said.

NRCS purchases the permanent easements on eligible lands and restores the area to natural conditions. A healthy floodplain enhances fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, flood water retention and ground water recharge.

The program complements traditional disaster recovery funding and allows NRCS to purchase a permanent easement on lands within floodplains that sustained damage from Sandy.

NRCS will accept applications for EWPP-FPE from July 8 to September 2, 2013.

Funds are only available in counties affected by Hurricane Sandy and where a major disaster was declared pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia and West Virginia.

Private lands and those owned by local and State governments are eligible if they are located in a floodplain, not subject to tidal influence or action from storm waves, and meet one of the following requirements:

* Damaged by flooding at least once within the previous calendar year or damaged by  flooding at least twice in the past 10 years (in both cases, the land must have been flooded during Sandy);

* Would contribute to the restoration of flood storage and flow, provide for control of erosion, or improve the practical management of the floodplain easement; or

* Could be inundated or adversely impacted as a result of a dam breach.

Easement compensation rates and ranking priorities vary by location and depend on where the land is located within the floodplain and whether it’s agricultural or vacant land or land with homes or other structures.

The program easements are permanent in term. Lands with structures, such as homes, are eligible for enrollment as well as open or agricultural lands. If a structure is present, NRCS will cost-share the removal or demolition of that structure and enroll the remaining lot in a permanent easement.

Interested landowners in Ashtabula and Cuyahoga Counties should contact their local USDA Service Center at 437-5888 to learn more about the program and submit an application prior to the September 2 deadline. More information is also available on the NRCS floodplain easement website.